Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Program (AIS)
In 1999, in response to the significant environmental threats posed by aquatic invasive species, PSMFC established the AIS Prevention Program. The goal of the program is to prevent and/or minimize the impacts of AIS, particularly those species that affect fisheries and the habitat upon which those fisheries depend. The program elements include prevention, research, monitoring, education and outreach, and interjurisdictional planning and coordination.
Prevention efforts include establishing watercraft decontamination protocols and standards, inspection and training programs, enhanced communication via the WEST911 hotline, water body monitoring, vulnerability assessments of hydropower facilities, and sharing information associated with state and provincial regulations as well as watercraft inspection locations.
• Watercraft Decontamination Protocols and Standards: PSMFC led the development of the document Recommended Protocols and Standards for Watercraft Interception Programs for Dreissenid Mussels in the Western United States. This document, known as “UMPS,” was first released in 2009 and adopted by the Western Regional Panel on Aquatic Nuisance Species, and then updated in January 2012 and 2016. The purpose of the UMPS document is to provide the best possible recommendations for watercraft inspection and decontamination (WID) programs and 2) to provide the best standards, practical science, and technology currently available for WID program consistency.
• Watercraft Inspection and Training Program (WIT): A key element of PSMFC’s dreissenid prevention program is its Watercraft Inspection Training Program, which provides Level I, II, and III watercraft inspection and decontamination training to interested entities. Trainings use the UMPS standards and protocols as well as a Student and Trainers manual developed by Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife and PSMFC. The WIT program advances the efforts of the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 100th Meridian Initiative, the Western Regional Panel on Aquatic Nuisance Species, and priorities in the Quagga Zebra Action Plan. To date, thousands of individuals have been trained through the WIT program.
• Monitoring: Another key element of PSMFC’s AIS prevention program is coordinating dreissenid monitoring for entities in the Columbia River Basin. Numerous federal, state, tribal and academic institutions are actively monitoring for zebra and quagga mussels (i.e., invasive mussels) and other nonnative species in a variety of ways. PSMFC compiles the information from these entities, and provides an online map of who is monitoring for what species, where, how and when. This information can help managers and researchers to determine if the current level of monitoring is sufficient, and whether efforts should be redirected to better fulfill various needs. In addition, making the information available online enhances coordination among states and provinces. PSMFC has played a lead role in coordinating and sharing information associated with quagga/zebra mussel sampling methods, and which laboratories process specific types of samples. States and provinces with new introductions of dreissenids benefit greatly from having this information available.
• Vulnerability Assessments: PSMFC coordinates the Columbia River Basin Vulnerability Assessment Team, a group of entities that manage hydropower facilities in the CRB. The team coordinates to produce vulnerability assessments that itemize and inspect all hydropower facility structures and components that interact with raw water, and make an informed judgment on the degree to which dreissenid mussels will impair the performance of the structures and components.
• Regulations Catalogue: PSMFC compiles, maintains, and shares information on regulations each state implements to combat AIS, creating efficiencies among the states by avoiding duplication of effort. The site also includes a National Sea Grant Law Center searchable compilation of western state AIS laws and regulations relevant to watercraft inspection programs.
• PSMFC Online Watercraft Inspection Reporting and Mapping Tools: Since 2012, PSMFC has hosted an online mapping and reporting tool for WID program in the western U.S. and Canada.
• PSMFC facilitates the Columbia River and Missouri River Basin Teams of 100th Meridian Initiative, a cooperative effort between local, state, provincial, regional and federal agencies to prevent the westward spread of zebra/quagga mussels and other aquatic nuisance species in North America.
• PSMFC serves on the Executive Committee of the Western Regional Panel on Aquatic Nuisance Species (WRP). PSMFC also participates and assists in the facilitation and document preparation of Building Consensus in the West, a committee of the Western Regional Panel on AIS, that takes a unique approach to convene AIS coordinators, law enforcement officers and Assistant Attorney Generals together in a proactive approach to protect western waters from quagga and zebra mussel infestation.
• PSMFC works with the Pacific Northwest Economic Region’s (PNWER) Invasive Species Working Group. This important working group seeks to increase awareness regarding invasive species in 10 states, provinces, and territories that comprise PNWER. Its task is to address the regional economic and environmental impact of invasive species and promote regional collaboration and sharing of best practices. PSMFC assisted PNWER in preparing the 2015 document Advancing a Regional Defense Against Invasive Mussels.
• PSMFC has administered and chaired the Pacific Ballast Water Group (PBWG) since 2002. The mission of the Pacific Ballast Water Group (PBWG) is to promote development and implementation of safe, economical, effective management of aquatic nuisance species associated with West Coast shipping.
• In 2015, PSMFC co-hosted a workshop with Portland State University and the US Geological Survey to update research priorities in the 2010 Quagga-Zebra Mussel Action Plan in light of the westward expansion of mussels in the United States and Canada. The workshop convened experts from throughout the United States and Canada in mussel biology, ecology, and management to prioritize research associated with prevention, detection, monitoring, management and control. The outcomes of this workshop are consistently reviewed by funders interested in dreissenid research to ensure funding is strategically targeted at North America’s greatest dreissenid priorities.
• PSMFC shares information on the latest aquatic invasive species peer-reviewed research on www.westernais.org.
IV. Rapid Response
• ESA and Rapid Response: Since 2014, PSMFC has supported the convening of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the US Fish and Wildlife Service to develop a best practices management document, Responding to an Introduction of Dreissenids in Oregon and Washington. Although the document cites case studies of potential introductions of dreissenids in two PNW states, the information contained throughout the document is beneficial to any state in the Columbia River Basin. Through a cooperative agreement with USFWS funding, PSMFC is leading an effort to develop a manual that will inform, expedite and facilitate ESA Section 7 consultations to minimize impacts of dreissenid mussel response actions on listed species and their designated critical habitat in Columbia River Basin states. To inform the development of the manual, we will convene federal, state and other agencies and entities to provide input and expertise. Because the initiation of any action in a CRB state will trigger that state’s rapid response plan and require a coordinated response with federal agencies in the state in which the response occurs, we are proposing the manual be developed using state-based working groups that coordinate with the Leadership Team (USFWS, PSMFC, and NMFS).
• PSMFC and the US Fish and Wildlife Service created and maintain the Columbia River Basin Interagency Invasive Species Response Plan: Zebra Mussels and Other Dreissenid Species.
• PSMFC has administered numerous rapid response exercises with states throughout the Columbia River Basin. In addition to providing training on the National Incident Management System (NIMS), the professionally moderated exercise helps evaluate whether the Plan and its organizational framework can help enhance a basin wide response to an invasive mussel introduction. These exercises also provide state, federal and tribal agencies with the opportunity to test their interagency preparedness for an invasion.
• Since 2008, PSMFC has produced the electronic newsletter, AIS in the News, to inform interested AIS practitioners about the latest news associated with AIS.
• Since 1999, PSMFC has been attending sport and outdoor shows in the western U.S. distributing AIS educational materials to boaters and anglers. We provided support to MTFWP in the early– mid 2000’s for a booth. For the past five years, we have attended the Sacramento, Portland and Boise Sport Shows and the Seattle Pacific Marine Expo, as well as provide materials to numerous shows throughout the country.
• PSMFC has produced/published numerous print and electronic educational materials that are provided free of charge to resource agencies. Many of these are posted on a photo and video gallery PSMFC maintains.
• PSMFC hosts the Western AIS Webinar Series, The webinars share information on the latest protocols and standards, research, monitoring, databases and other information associated with western aquatic invasive species.
• PSMFC has supported outreach campaigns among the western states to ensure consistency in AIS messaging and programming. Clean, Drain, Dry, Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers, and Don’t Let it Loose are a few of the outreach campaigns that PSMFC has promoted and supported via materials, information, and discussion with the western states.
• On www.westernais.org, PSMFC maintains a menu tab with information on different pathways associated with AIS as well a compendium of articles on the Economic Effects of Aquatic Invasive Species.
• PSMFC developed and maintains two websites, www.westernais.org and www.buildingconsensusinthewest.org. Information on these sites includes the latest research and technology, training, regulations, rapid response, pathways of introduction, news, outreach, and convenings of AIS professionals. Montana both directly and indirectly benefits from the information on these sites. For example, Montana staff have access to public outreach campaign materials, the latest news, photos and videos, and important online databases, such as detailed information on watercraft inspection stations throughout the West.